February 7, 2013 – Cigar City Hunahphu’s Imperial Stout and Bell’s Hopslam Ale
I bet y’all wish you were me.
I really do. I’m good looking, have a job I love, and drink better beer on a whim than you drink all year. It’s absolutely fantastic being me and I can’t imagine wanting to be anyone else. The only thing better than being me is being the people I associate with, because I only associate with world-class people. And tonight, I shared a world-class better with some new friends, and had one shared with me. And so you get a rare double review.
Tonight’s beers are Hunahphu’s Imperial Stout from Cigar City Brewing and Hopslam from Bell’s. If you know anything about craft beer you know about these beers. If you were lucky enough to get your hands on some the moments that they were available, then you’re already leaning contentedly back in your chair, remembering the good time you had drinking them and being pleased as punch that other people got to enjoy it as well. If you were unfortunate enough to miss out on both, then you’re probably salivating over this review. Either way, let’s get things started.
The incomparable Dave who runs the Lakeland Craft Beer site suggested a bottle swap yesterday, and I was happy to oblige. As I’ve threatened to do several times in the past, I decided that this was the time to open my bottle of Hunahphu’s Imperial Stout, which I’ve been cellar aging for eight months. If you’re not familiar with Hunahphu’s, let me bring you up to speed. Once a year, Cigar City Brewing in Tampa releases Hunahphu’s, an Imperial Stout that is apparently based on their Marshal Zhukov, a formidable stout in its own right. To get this beer, you need to withstand the Florida heat for hours – it’s released in March, and for those of you who aren’t from Florida, let me be perfectly clear here, it’s HOTTER THAN THE DEVIL’S BALLSACK in March in central Florida. It’s hot, you’re standing over pavement with little or no shade, it’s hot, there’s thousands and thousands of people all around you, it’s hot. It’s a remarkably unpleasant experience to have to endure, and since only so many bottles are released, you need to get there early to be assured of being able to buy bottles of the precious liquid. But it’s worth it. It’s so, so worth it.
I won’t attempt to adequately describe this beer. I can’t. Like in the book / movie “Contact”, “they should have sent a poet”. I don’t have the words. One of my drinking companions said that they were unable to stop smiling in the presence of this beer. That’s about as well as I can sum it up. I mean, I’ll try, but understand this: everything I say is woefully inadequate. If given the opportunity, you should drop whatever you’re doing and taste this beer. If you don’t live in central Florida, you should be pricing flights to Tampa right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
The pour is dark, dark as the devil’s soul, glittering like the event horizon on a black hole. Its inch thick chocolate head is formidable. It dares you to break it, to unlock the seal on this holy or unholy beer, defying you to take into your lips this masterful concoction of magic, barley and hops. Beyond this words genuinely do fail me. Cocoa, vanilla, and various chilis dance on the nose and on the palate, creating a rich brew that defies logic and reason with its ability to delight and titillate. This is beer. This is the platonic ideal of beer. This is, perhaps, the best beer. A debatable statement, and one that will never be adequately resolved, but I feel like this is a contender nonethless. In Mayan mythology, Hunahphu is a creator god. This beer creates. What it creates is up to you, but it is a creative force decoratively packaged in a 750 ml bottle. It is divine.
I also (ALSO!) had a Hopslam Ale by Bell’s Brewery tonight. It’s a damn crime that I had both these beers on the same night. The karma police ought to lock me up, because no one should be experiencing this good of a life. This is THE double IPA. Period. That’s right – I’d put it up against Pliny the Elder in a taste test. Give me that Pepsi challenge any day. It’s a robust orange flavor, hazy, with an ivory or off white head. It smells like Florida – are we CERTAIN that Bell’s is based in Michigan? – with grapefruit, tangerine, and clementine notes jumping off the glass to my nose. It tasted of cookies and citrus and joy and all things that were good about your childhood. And the drinkability! Dear God! I could drink these like water in a good way. Goes down like velvet on a Sunday morning. It’s too good. It’s criminal
So yeah. In conclusion. it’s absolutely wonderful to be me. Thank you to the people that I did get to talk to tonight, you were all amazing and wonderful people, real hoopy froods who know where their towels are. To the few that couldn’t come, I’m sorry and I hope to see you next time.